Steyn fears fast bowling will disappear if balance remains skewed

Fast bowler asks for more competitive pitches and greater financial incentives

Nagraj Gollapudi |

Dale Steyn:

Dale Steyn: "I want to challenge myself and the people who say fast bowlers generally retire at 33, 34. That is bullshit. I can retire at 38 if I want" © Getty Images

Dale Steyn has pleaded to cricket's administrators to treat fast bowlers at par with batsmen if the art of fast bowling is to survive in the future.

"You need people to be able to bowl at 160kph," Steyn told the Cricket Monthly in an in-depth interview in the latest issue of the magazine, to be published on March 2. "You need people who take five wickets. You need people who bowl 150kph on day five to keep that inspiration up for future kids. I can do that. But we need help from whoever runs world cricket."

Steyn said that if the pitches, money and resources were not in favour of fast bowlers, he feared "fast bowling would disappear" as the future generation of players would turn their attention to the more lucrative and easier art of batting.

"If the IPL is all about guys getting US$2 million for hitting the ball out of the ground, then who wants to bowl fast? You need a fast bowler that is earning that in the IPL," said Steyn, who will be turning out for Gujarat Lions in the 2016 IPL tournament, having been bought by the new franchise for Rs 2.3 crores (approximately US$336,000).

But Steyn's concerns went beyond the monetary. "You need pitches where players are able to take ten wickets. You need [bowling] heroes in the game, where kids can say, 'I want to be that guy. I don't just want to be AB de Villiers. I don't just want to be Virat Kohli.' Otherwise, bowling is going to disappear."

Steyn sat down with the Cricket Monthly for a two-session, three-hour long interview in Delhi in December during South Africa's tour to India after a groin strain he picked up during the first Test in Mohali forced him out of the Test series.

Despite missing out on playing a high-profile series, which South Africa went on to lose 0-3, Steyn was not downbeat. He spoke candidly about his early days as a fast bowler, the pain of losing the 2015 World Cup semi-final and moving on from it, and how he calms himself down during bowling spells by talking about fishing with Morne Morkel.

"There is nothing better than waking up on day four, your body absolutely buggered, you know your captain is going to press the ball into your chest and say, 'I'm backing you to make a difference today'"

Steyn said the difference between good and great was a difficult one to mark. "One day you can be great and next day you can be absolute shit. Fast bowling is a battle. I have run in and bowled a heap of poo sometimes and the guy has hit it straight to cover. At other times I have bowled the spell of my life and I just can't find the edge."

While he explained the mechanics of bowling fast, Steyn stressed that extreme pace cannot be taught.

"I was chatting to a young Indian guy yesterday [in a training session at Feroz Shah Kotla] about what he could do to get pace. I was trying to give him any tip that was given to me, and then you get to a point where, unfortunately, only a God-given few can operate at. But then you need that something else. Something that someone like Usain Bolt has over anybody. Something like AB de Villiers has with his eyes and hands above anybody else. You can train them to a point, but unfortunately some people are just better than others at that specific thing."

Passion and anger drive him to consistently perform at the international level, Steyn said. "I always said Michael Clarke was a serious player. He was a great batsman. But I wanted a massive competition with this guy, because if I could clean him up for nothing, the rest of the team would fail. I always went for the bigger player. You need to pick your targets. In Australia it was Michael, Ricky Ponting. A guy like Virat, maybe, in this Indian team."

For Steyn such intense and personal battles can only be fought in Test cricket, his favourite format. "There is nothing better than waking up on day four, your body absolutely buggered, you are tired and you know your captain is going to press the ball into your chest and say, 'I'm backing you to make a difference today.'"

Steyn, 32, believed getting to 500 Test wickets was a realistic goal. He was also determined to prove people wrong about the age at which a fast bowler should call it quits.

"My heart is pounding. My mind is fine. My body is unbelievably strong. I am 32, but I am still the fittest guy in the team. I want to challenge myself and the people who say fast bowlers generally retire at 33, 34. That is bullshit. I can retire at 38 if I want. I watched Brett Lee at 38 or something, bowling 145kph in Big Bash. I remember thinking: this guy can still play international cricket. But whether he wants to put himself through it is a different story. I kind of do."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo





  • POSTED BY rob on | March 2, 2016, 7:46 GMT

    As an Aussie I begrudgingly admit that Steyn is a viable threat to McGrath's record for fast bowlers. It's far easier to say he seems a nice bloke to boot. .. I found it interesting that he seems to be a bit of a Brett Lee fan, at least from the longevity point of view. It's interesting because I've heard Brett Lee say (a couple of times) that he thinks Steyn has the perfect physique for a fast bowler. Something about fast twitch musculature, it was gobbledegook to me but the overall message was clear. Steyn is a 'natural born' fast bowler in Lee's opinion. I guess Lee would know. I saw him pushing 160 clicks in the final session of day 5 once or twice.

  • POSTED BY Suryaputra on | March 2, 2016, 5:57 GMT

    @MERVO: 'Kohli and others feast on flat pitches' Others like Smith, Warner, Voges maybe? While I can't speak for other batsmen, Kohli will do perfectly fine on a fast pitch. His recent duel with Aamir , albeit a very short one, confirms that.

  • POSTED BY Suryaputra on | March 2, 2016, 5:46 GMT

    Dale Steyn has been my favorite fast bowler. He is right up there with the greats like Wasim, Ambrose, Marshall etc. The way he speaks about fast bowling is great to hear. I think as a sport, we idolize the batsmen a tad too much these days in cricket. It may have to do with the fact that in recent era we have had more legendary batsmen as compared to legendary bowlers.

    I agree that we need helpful, balanced pitches to encourage fast bowling but I also feel that simply blaming batsmen friendly conditions for the decline of fast bowlers isn't good enough. A good bowler will thrive on a helpful pitch, a great bowler will take conditions out of the equation.

  • POSTED BY Brady on | March 2, 2016, 0:32 GMT

    Australia, England and SA will play test matches between each other for the foreseeable future, so fast bowling will of course have a future along with that. As for the other test playing nations - has fast bowling ever really been alive for them? West Indies and Pakistan aside, no. As for his comments about pitches, I agree that we need some spicier surfaces in world cricket - particularly in Australia where the last two seasons have been disgraceful.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | March 1, 2016, 15:49 GMT

    I hate the tortured expression on Steyns face when he gets a wicket. He should learn from his 20 year old teammate!

  • POSTED BY Chatty on | March 1, 2016, 15:19 GMT

    Wow, a true fast bowler talking! I felt like being a fast bowler myself, just reading what he has said! His energy and passion are exceptional and explain why he IS exceptional. A great role model for fast bowlers. But I agree. None of that passion and energy will be enough given the flat wickets, short boundaries and the rest. But it is not just fast bowlers who need help. Spinners too. We had some great spinners, from WI, Pakistan, SL - all banned now. Sure, they may have broken the rules. But it was so much more fun watching cricket with those guys in action. They contributed hugely to the game. I think the ICC really needs to think carefully about balance between bat and ball, and change the rule book if necessary.

  • POSTED BY Graham on | March 1, 2016, 12:33 GMT

    Have bats got wider? I thought there was a maximum width and that hasn't changed? Thickness and length might be a different story.

    That said, I get your point. An even contest is required. Preferably a pitch that offers something on the first morning for quicks, before improving for batsmen on days 2 and 3, before breaking up and bringing spin and reverse swing into play.

  • POSTED BY haze on | March 1, 2016, 12:28 GMT

    What an incredible athlete, he is the true embodiment of the elite sports 1% ers ... A very ,very small club indeed that encompasses all pro sports around the globe.... That only they know what it takes and what they sacrifice to be a part of, it, this all points to a very special young man who history will remember alongside the pantheon of all time greats! I will always remember his fantastic quote above...... "There is nothing better than waking up on day four, your body absolutely buggered, you are tired and you know your captain is going to press the ball into your chest and say, 'I'm backing you to make a difference today.'" what a guy, what a player, and what a inspiration to the next generation of fast bowlers!

  • POSTED BY ideal on | March 1, 2016, 11:36 GMT

    Shows beautiful insight on what he thinks. He is right about bowling fast on day 4 or 5. Curtly Amrbose was a master at it - cleaning up opposition on day 4 or 5 with same vigour as day one. Dale steyn is fantastic as well. We need pitches that are sportive and can help all round cricket on day 4 or 5. An up and down pitch might also do on day 4 or 5 where an element of doubt is created by fast bowler - like Javgal srinath did agsint SA in 1998 in Ahmedabad with that magical spell. Wasim Akram was master at it bowling with same intensity all through match. But, like he says, encouragement is required. Only thing i differ is, if a bowler or batsman needs money as a incentive to choose his skill than the passion - then that individual most likely will not make it. If you choose your field to excel and pursue it with passion as Dale has done - i am sure monetary incentive will follow whether its 300000 USD or 2 million USD as that figure changes all the time for an individual.

  • POSTED BY Siva on | March 1, 2016, 11:33 GMT

    Completely agree with TOMMYTUCKERSAFFA

  • POSTED BY Vikas on | March 1, 2016, 11:11 GMT

    Steyn belongs to the top 5 fast bowlers in cricket history. His avg is 24 in cricket when the next best Anderson is 28. Unlike previous fast bowlers Steyn has to bowl in the flattest of pitches. He has to face batsmen who are armed with bats twice the size of bats used previously. Moreover he has to play in 3 different formats. Earlier fast bowlers used to play only in Test matches and then only in ODIs and Test matches.

  • POSTED BY Merv on | March 1, 2016, 9:55 GMT

    @NIHITS ON you have obviously never watched Steyn through his career. You are so wrong it is sad. He has a beautiful action and while not as fast as he was 6 years ago is still deadly. Certainly better than many of the pelters we see these days.

  • POSTED BY Merv on | March 1, 2016, 9:52 GMT

    He is spot on. These days too many pitches are made to suit the batsmen. Kohli and other like him feast on flat pitches and rarely know the danger, excitement and threat a true pace bowler can create. We need more pitches with some juice in them for pace bowlers, or we will be faced with watching B grade tweakers seem to be the norm.

  • POSTED BY greig on | March 1, 2016, 9:30 GMT

    People commenting here to criticise his abilities and past success. This article is not about that. This article is about the importance for kids to have Fast Bowling Heros, not just batting Heros like almost every Indian fan has become. T20 has turned fast bowlers into bowling machines. Bats have gotten bigger, thicker and broader. Boundaries have gotten smaller, pitches drier and slower. When will it end? Lets just turn up for matches with 10 batsmen who can bowl a bit of spin and medium pace. RIP Fast Bowling, one of the greatest sights in cricket.

  • POSTED BY Varun on | March 1, 2016, 9:23 GMT

    the inclusion of great Steyn for T20 WC, is pretty much good for SA's chances for winning. But, this only good for current fixture of WC, and the probability of his good performance is really deprived, on these turning wickets. Otherwise, many cricket lovers, want him in action in TEST cricket, where bowlers own their respect and having a great importance too. In T20's, bowlers are mercilessly dispatched by batsman (even mindless sloggers), the ability of a bowler, is really a question mark for his team in T20's. Otherwise, this format, should play on green and turning tracks.

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | March 1, 2016, 8:47 GMT

    He is right, cricket is best when there is even contest between bat and ball. I actually liking current pitches in Asia cup.

  • POSTED BY David on | March 1, 2016, 8:45 GMT

    Totally agree. The greatest tension/excitement in cricket is derived from watching a fast bowler having a great spell in a test match against good batsmen on a helpful pitch. Every ball an event. Its spell-binding. Give me that any day against bishbashbosh.

  • POSTED BY kris on | March 1, 2016, 8:06 GMT

    He normally revels in making the batsmen lose their timing. But this time around, he has last his own sense of timing. The twenty 20 match that India played in Pune against SL saw the greenest wicket in recent times. In Bangladesh, the Asia cup is played on green-tops that the traditional English pitches are associated with. So, one feels that Steyn is either too late with his comments or too early.

  • POSTED BY Nihit on | March 1, 2016, 7:58 GMT

    Dale steyn is Medium Fast not Fast or Fast medium, he is slowest among the fast bowlers out there. his average is less than 135kmph and top speed is less than 140. Almost everyone bowls faster than him.

  • POSTED BY Piyush on | March 1, 2016, 6:53 GMT

    Saf lost 0-3 in India. Please correct the article. March issue of The Cricket Monthly should be a fantastic one.

  • POSTED BY vishal on | March 1, 2016, 6:46 GMT

    "You need people who take five wickets" - I suppose spinners and seamers also take 5 wickets not only the one's bowling around 150 ks

  • POSTED BY Cricinfouser on | March 1, 2016, 6:42 GMT

    Good on you Dale... watching him when he gets that angry look in his eyes and all fired up is one of the best sights in cricket.